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University of Adelaide
Graduate Software Engineer
Isaac studied Bachelor of Engineering (Honours)(Mechanical and Aerospace) with Bachelor of Mathematics and Computer Sciences
What's your job about?
Saab Australia develops a wide range of products in both the civil and defence domains. Currently I’m upgrading software for some equipment the Australian Army are using.
As one of five software engineers on my team, I have worked on different software components of the system; such as the user interface, automated testing tools, web servers, and communication protocols between hardware modules. My tasks highlight what the end-product must do, but how this is achieved is up to me. As such, I have to consider potential solutions and viewpoints such as: ‘How intuitive is this to use?’, ‘Are there safety any risks?’, and ‘What happens if the user enters incorrect data?’ The best solution usually comprises a combination of these factors, and often requires further refinement itself.
For a more in-depth description of my job, check out my ‘Day in the Life’ post.
What's your background?
I spent most of my life living in a country town at a public high school before transferring straight to the city to study. I always wanted to build things, even as a small boy. So when it came time to search for careers at high school I knew I wanted to be some kind of engineer.
I eventually discovered aerospace engineering, and put this as my first preference when enrolling at University. Other preferences were from similar engineering disciplines but I really wanted to study something involving computers. ‘Game developer’ was my final preference. After I accepted my university offer, I found out I could combine aerospace engineering with computer science, so the day after accepting, I requested a transfer.
In my penultimate study year I got some work experience through university, working on a mix of hardware and software engineering projects. One project involved reworking electronics for a vehicle called a Diwheel (see picture below). For another, I built and programmed a series of wearable sensors which measure spinal column movement during different exercises. In my first job out of university I built a web application at DSTG and after a year there I moved to Saab Australia where I’ve been for the last 12 months.
Could someone with a different background do your job?
Absolutely! What makes this job so interesting is that there are multiple ways to get something to work, and the difficulty of the job comes from needing to see these alternative options. Different backgrounds and experiences lead each person to a different solution and by collaborating with others; we can refine those solutions further. Crucial skills of an engineer are to be able to communicate your ideas effectively, and be able to analyse the pros and cons of different solutions.
What's the coolest thing about your job?
Getting to rotate through various departments during our graduate placement and using the different tools and processes in place. It’s a great way to broaden your knowledge and meet new people. Graduate school held each fortnight is also really interesting. We have interactive discussions and presentations from the heads of different departments within the company. It isn’t all just engineering related either; we get a great view of what the company is doing as a whole.
What are the limitations of your job?
It takes a long time to work out how existing software works, especially it’s so big. In the beginning it takes a while to even start a task. You spend so much time trying to work out the best place to incorporate your changes in the code. You also have to understand the work process and how to go from an idea to the completed job.
3 pieces of advice for yourself when you were a student...
- Make the most of your spare time. While it feels like there are a lot of assignments to do, and usually there are, you will probably less busy than you will working full-time.
- Find work experience early. It’s a great way to enhance your skills, which will show when you go back to class. Getting work experience early allows you test the waters to see if this is really the career path for you
- Work in groups more often, even for individual assignments. It’s a great way to learn from your peers and get exposure to different ways of thinking. Go back to question three for a reminder of why this is so important.